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Friday, August 14, 2020

All Five Michigan Scottish Rite Valleys Vote To Merge

by Christopher Hodapp

On Thursday this week, it was announced that the five valleys of the Scottish Rite NMJ in Michigan have voted to merge to become one single Scottish Rite Valley for the state. The vote took place during the Michigan Council of Deliberation meeting, and now moves to the Supreme Council for final approval. 

Because of the COVID pandemic restrictions, the Council of Deliberation meeting was held this year as a virtual event.

According to the presentation made during the program, the combined Scottish Rite Valleys of Michigan are currently down to just 3,700 members statewide, and just 2,072 of those members (about 56%) pay full, regular dues. The other 44% of Michigan's SR members do not, for a variety of reasons — some are exempted entirely, some pay only the NMJ per capita, some are active military. But the bottom line is that 44% are largely getting a free ride. Moreover, a whopping 80.8% of Michigan's Scottish Rite members currently are over the age of 61, while just 1% are between 21 and 30.

All of that points a boney finger at the future if something isn't done to turn their membership around. Demographics don't lie, and Michigan isn't unique or an outlier. I suspect you are going to see this happen in more states with too many Scottish Rite and York Rite bodies to be supported by an ever-shrinking membership.

According to the presentation, the state will be divided into four regions, and each region will be expected to hold one reunion each year. The Lodge of Perfection, the Princes of Jerusalem, the Rose Croix, and the Consistory administrative bodies will be divided among the four regions - four bodies, but only one to each region. Each region would only have to concentrate on presenting the degrees of its assigned chapter (just to illustrate, imagine that Grand Rapids would do the Lodge of Perfection degrees, Detroit does Princes of Jerusalem, Marquette does Rose Croix, etc.). That way, the regions will cooperate to present more degrees, while concentrating their own efforts on the degrees of their body. 

My thumbnail description here does not do it justice. If you have a Facebook account, you can see the presentation and the merger details HERE.

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Special Promotion for 'Freemasons For Dummies' Now Through December

by Christopher Hodapp

Over the last couple of weeks, I have been working with the good folks at Wiley Publishing to find a way to offer a substantial discount to lodges and grand lodges who wish to order copies of Freemasons For Dummies for their new petitioners and candidates, without being required to buy large quantities. 

Beginning August 1st, you can order multiple copies of the paperback edition of Freemasons For Dummies directly from the publisher at 30% off the $19.99 list price. This special offer will extend from now through December 31st, 2020.

Because of the COVID virus shutdowns, Masonic lodges throughout the United States have been largely forbidden from meeting in person and conferring degrees on new candidates. 
In my own state, we've been prevented from conferring degrees at least until the end of the year. At the other end of the situation, thousands of interested men who have been trapped at home by the shutdowns have been contacting grand lodges directly or logging on to the www.BeAFreemason.com website expressing new interest in joining the Masonic fraternity. The result has been a growing group of potential new Masons stalled and unable to move forward until states fully reopen and lodges can once again meet together in person. 

So, click Read More below for the 30% discount code, the website you must order through,  and the rest of the grisly details:

Monday, August 10, 2020

Spain's Biblioteca Pública Arús

by Christopher Hodapp

At the end of the Spanish Civil War in 1939, Fascist dictator Francisco Franco took power and would rule Spain for another four decades. Like his fascist contemporaries Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini, Franco outlawed Freemasonry. Lodges were shuttered, many Masons were persecuted, and more than a few Masonic leaders were imprisoned or killed. And for almost three decades, the top Masonic library in Spain had to remain hidden from view.

In 1895, the Biblioteca Pública Arús (or the Arús Public Library) opened on the second floor of a downtown townhouse in Barcelona as one of the city's first public libraries. The library was donated to the people of Barcelona upon his death by Spanish playwright, journalist, philanthropist and Freemason Rossend Arús for the education of the working classes. Located at 26 Passeig de Sant Joan in Barcelona, the Arús Public Library today is home to 80,000 books, booklets, manuscripts, documents, microforms and more. In addition to being one of the largest reference libraries on Freemasonry in Spain, it also houses one of the world’s most comprehensive Sherlock Holmes collections. It is also has extensive material about labor unions, social and cultural movements, and more. But because of its large Masonic collection, the rise of Franco resulted in the owners of the library closing its doors to the public in 1939, and it remained safely closed and hidden from sight for another 28 years.

According to an article on the Daily Beast website, the closure of the library prevented it from being plundered. While books were destroyed or requisitioned from other libraries throughout Spain, the Arús Public Library’s collection was kept intact. The Library's concierge lived with his family in part of the property and would not let anyone in without express permission from the Barcelona City Council.

A close ally of Adolf Hitler in Germany and Benito Mussolini in Italy, Franco’s sworn enemies included the labor unions, Communists, Jews, homosexuals, and any groups promoting liberal or anti-clerical values, such as the Freemasons. Franco passed specific legislation to outlaw Freemasonry, and thousands of trials were held, resulting in firing squads, extensive prison sentences, property seizures, and exile, for those found guilty of Freemasonry. Following the death of Franco in 1975, it took a further four years for Spanish Freemasons to be legalized and have their rights restored.
“At the end of the war, the library had a reputation for being ‘Red and Masonic’,” explains [Maribel Giner, Director of the Biblioteca Pública Arús]. “Red—or Communist—due to its backing of the labor movement and commitment to educating the working classes, and Masonic, because of the collection it inherited from the private library of its founder.”
In 2011, it received a collection on Sherlock Holmes, donated by Catalan collector Joan Proubasta, consisting of more than 6,000 books in 42 languages, and more than 2,000 related objects, from comics to posters, stamps, statues, puppets and insignia. It is one of the most extensive collections in Europe and the largest in Spain. Why did Proubasta make this donation to the Arús Public Library? It turns out that Holmes’ creator, Arthur Conan Doyle, was a Freemason.
For any library enthusiasts staying in Barcelona, Maribel Giner believes the Arús Public Library is worth a visit.
“This is a well-preserved 19th-century library that has maintained its original design details. Stepping in here is like being transported to another era, and also an opportunity to explore a piece of Barcelona's history,” she says.

Photos by Isabelle Kliger/Daily Beast 

Saturday, August 08, 2020

Freemasons, Fairs and the Future

by Christopher Hodapp

There's an article this week on the Scottish Rite Museum's blog about an Order of the Eastern Star display at the Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1896. I love anything that combines fraternalism with my childhood fascination with World's Fairs. At the age of five and a half, my father took me to the New York World's Fair in Flushing Meadow. 

Flying cars, rocket packs, video phones, Moon rockets, robots - they were all there, and more. I glimpsed the future that weekend in New York, and I wanted in. The Fair succeeded at what world's fairs in those days were supposed to do - it inspired a whole generation of fairgoers about the exciting technology of the time, and the greater achievements we would make in the future that was closer than we thought. 

It's a shame that world's fairs lost their ability to do that in the decade after New York's, because we seem to have given up on our ability to be optimistically inspired in the last 50 years.

Freemasons used to think a lot about the future, too. They thought about their past achievements, but they also planned big for the future. World's fairs were a part of that big thinking for Masons. Back in April, the Whence Came You podcast featured a paper from the Illinois Lodge of Research by Alphonse Cerza about the Freemasons who brought the 1893 Columbian Exposition to life in Chicago. It also talks about the building of the Chicago Masonic Temple, the tallest building in the world and the 'Engineering Marvel of the Age.' 

Masons assembling at the Chicago Fair in 1893 held a 'fraternal congress' in the new Chicago Temple, a meeting of the world's Masonic grand lodges to discuss issues facing the fraternity. You can hear about it below. 

The Columbian World Exposition at Jackson Park in Chicago, Illinois celebrated the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’ arrival in the Americas in 1492. Organizers built more than 200 new, mostly temporary structures and pavilions that spanned over 600 acres on the South Side of Chicago. Nicknamed 'the White City' because of its gleaming white plaster, classical Greek-revival construction, the Chicago fair ushered in almost three decades of the City Beautiful Movement in America. Motivated by that architectural movement, Freemasons all over the U.S. embarked on massive building campaigns with magnificent new temples that remain standing to this day, unmatched by any buildings we would ever construct before or since.

Chicago's Freemasons had built the tallest building in the world

A decade later, the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904 was held to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Louisiana Purchase, and that city pulled out all the stops just as Chicago had. (If you know of the old musical Meet Me In St. Louis, it is a story about a family and events around that particular fair.) The St. Louis Fair came at the height of the Golden Age of Fraternalism in the United States, and unlike the Masonic events at Chicago, some sought wider participation from all fraternal groups to demonstrate a global mission of universal brotherhood. Little could any of them know that the first truly global conflict, World War I, was only ten years away.

The Temple of Fraternity at the St. Louis fair was the brainchild of Charles Folsom Hatfield, who was an ardent joiner of fraternities. At the time of the Fair, he was a member of the Masons, Odd Fellows, the Knights of Maccabees, the Royal Arcanum, the National Union, Modern Woodmen of America, Woodmen of the World, the Tribe of Ben Hur, and several other lesser known orders. Hatfield's plan for the fair pavilion united not just the Freemasons from across the U.S., but more than 60 different fraternal societies with a combined national membership of more than 8 million. Consider that the population of the country was 82 million at the time.

Built at a cost of $62,000 (approximately $1.8 million today), the Temple of Fraternity contained 40 different rooms, two 600-seat auditoriums/assembly halls, and hosted 56 different national conventions of fraternal societies during the St. Louis Fair. A corner suite of rooms were specifically set aside for a general Masonic headquarters, York Rite bodies, and the Order of the Eastern Star. In fact, the entire pavilion was carefully designed so each fraternal group had its own private area, completely separate from the others. The combined Masonic grand lodges and appendant orders eventually gave $15,000 to the project ($432,000 today).

From a communication sent to all Masonic grand lodges by the Temple Association in 1902:
“The Temple of Fraternity to be erected is an adaptation of the Parthenon of Athens, the standard of Greek architecture. It will be 200x300 feet surrounding a court which will be decorated as a tropical garden. It will be two stories high, with porticoes sixteen feet in depth on the exterior and interior, ornamented with Doric columns. Rooms will be set aside in this beautiful structure for all co-operating societies, where they will make their headquarters during the World’s Fair, and maintain a place for rendezvous and refreshment for the members from all parts of the country. The immense porticoes will be free for the use of all. Rooms will also be set aside for reading, writing, smoking, toilet purposes, ladies’ parlors, lounging, etc. Telephone, telegraph and postal service will be supplied, and a check room for parcels, as well as a free dispensary, attended by a board of competent physicians. The site selected for the Temple of Fraternity is one of the most commanding on World’s Fair grounds.”
The Temple of Fraternity was a huge success. The fraternal organizations measurably brought more visitors to the city and Fair than any other group or association. It was even featured on souvenir boxes of cigars sold at the Temple.

When the Fair ended, most pavilions were destroyed. The Temple of Fraternity, however, lived on. It was dismantled and shipped to New Mexico, where it became the administration building for a sanitarium for the treatment of tuberculosis, supported by an association of fraternal organizations.

When plans were underway in 1960 for the 1964-65 World's Fair in New York, the Freemasons of that state had great ambitions, too. U.S. Freemasonry had just peaked in membership in 1958 with 4.1 million members. Little would they know that the fraternity had already begun its long, downward trend in a world that lost its desire to join voluntary social organizations. With great confidence and unbridled optimism, the Grand Lodge of New York erected a pavilion to tell the story of Freemasonry to the millions who came to the Fair. 

Just 60 years after St. Louis, the Masons were the only fraternal group represented at the New York Fair.

From the incredible New York World's fair website:
"The Masonic Center showcased Masonic history and memorabilia going back to medieval times. The Center, which stood across a reflecting pool from a 50-foot high model of the builder's square and compass, symbols of the fraternity, was sponsored by the Grand Lodge of New York. It included a hall for exhibitions, a lounge, office and outside patio. Dominating the hall was an 11-foot high statue, in Masonic regalia, of George Washington, first of 14 American Presidents (till 1964) who belonged to the brotherhood. Events from his life were portrayed in three-diminsional scenes, and the Bible on which he took the oath of office as President was on display. Documents on view dated back to the 14th Century, when the Masons were the cathedral builders of Europe. Among them was a Plan of Union for the colonies written by Mason Benjamin Franklin in 1754."

The three-dimensional scenes discussed above were two diaramas, one depicting General Washington and General Lafayette (both Masons) at Valley Forge; the other showed Washington taking his oath of office in Federal Hall, New York City, as first President of the United States. Also shown was his apron as Master of Alexandria Lodge (Alexandria, Va.), a tuft of Washington's hair, and the Square and Compass which he personally used in laying out the lands of Fairfax County,Va. There were also displays about Governor DeWitt Clinton, Governor and Grand Master of New York; Lewis and Clark;Admiral Byrd; General "Blackjack: Pershing; Will Rogers; and other distinguished Masons in history. A map of the world showing the location of all 112 recognized Grand Lodges was displayed.
The theme of the entire pavilion was "Brotherhood, the Foundation of World Peace."
(You can view the entire souvenir guide book for the Masonic Brotherhood Center HERE)
The monumental structures over the decades that have remained around the world after the fairs themselves have been scraped from the Earth always attract my attention, along with the bright and joyfully optimistic futures each of these fairs always projected - Paris' Eiffel Tower, New York's Unisphere, Seattle's Space Needle, Chicago's Grant Park and Museum of Science & Industry, and many more. But world's fairs themselves were always meant to be temporary, fleeting, making way for ever newer innovations and greater human achievements yet to be celebrated. 

Two items remain today of New York's 1964 Masonic pavilion - the top portion of the tall fiberglass square and compass that stood on the corner of the Fair's Avenue Europe and Avenue of the Americas beckoning visitors now stands in front of the Masonic Home in Utica, New York. 

And the bronze statue of George Washington in Masonic regalia created by the sculptor Donald DeLue stands today on the approximate site of the pavilion in Corona Park, appropriately surrounded by cherry trees. It alone remains in the park today to tell the world that the Masons once were there.

World's fairs were developed and flourished at the dawn of the Industrial Age until they limped to a shadow of themselves by the 1970s. Something changed and we stopped celebrating the dazzling, life-changing achievements of Mankind. 

But I've been back to the New York World's Fair site in Queens as an adult, and it all comes rushing back. That moment of standing under the mighty engine nozzles of the first stage of a Saturn V rocket that would soon propel Man to the Moon and beyond might just as well have happened yesterday, it is so vivid. But, to paraphrase Rod Serling, the optimism and wonders of the fairs have been pushed aside by the flow of progress, the passage of years, and the ferocious travesty of Fate.

G. K. Chesterton once said that the world would never starve for wonders, but only for the want of Wonder. The world is not a better place since civilization lost its sense of wonder and bigger dreams for more magnificent tomorrows. Maybe it's time we Masons took up that mission once again.

Wednesday, August 05, 2020

Masons and Community: County Court Uses Masonic Hall for Jury Duty

by Christopher Hodapp

I spotted an interesting tidbit in the news today that demonstrates how a Masonic lodge can be of unique service to its surrounding community. The Masonic Center in Clinton, Iowa is being leased by the Clinton County Court as a venue for jury pool selection. According to the article on the Clinton Herald website, state and local COVID regulations about social distancing in government venues forced the court to find another, more spread out location for choosing jury pool members. The courthouse could not properly accommodate the required safe distances needed for gathering large groups of people in one space. So, the Brethren of the Clinton Masonic Center came to the rescue.

Clinton County Attorney Mike Wolf says the county will lease the space for jury selection at a cost of $400 for each week the county needs the site. The rate includes set up on Friday, storing equipment at the site over the weekend and selecting the jury on Mondays. The actual trials will be held starting Tuesdays in the County Courthouse, as usual.

The Clinton Masonic Center is the home of the Clinton Valley of the Scottish Rite Bodies, York Rite, Western Star Lodge #100, and Emulation Lodge #255. The article doesn't say, but I suspect their 'Red Room' will be the probable location because of its size and horseshoe seating.

In similar news, David Bloomquist on Facebook reports that the Scottish Rite Valley of Lincoln, Nebraska's spacious lodge room is being used for Lincoln and Lancaster County court trials.

And Joe Schumate, Jr. tells me that Denham Springs Lodge #297 in Denham Springs, Louisiana is also being used by their local court system for trials during the COVID pandemic.

The point to be made from this is that the public at large really isn't aware anymore that our buildings have these large, unusually arranged spaces that work out perfectly for trial/jury/spectator uses. It's worth reaching out to your local courts to inform them. Back in the days when we had members from every walk of life, they knew. We have to spread the word now.

Back in the day, our downtown temple's auditorium in Indianapolis was used for swearing in new immigrants. We could be doing that again.

A couple of guys have groused online that $400/day sounded too cheap. It's a token amount, sure, but it'
s $400 more per week than the room was making when it sat empty. Plus, it gets the local Masonic hall back in front of literally hundreds of eyeballs that otherwise knew little or nothing about us. That's more important than anything these days. We will never rebuild this fraternity as long as we are invisible and a forgotten mystery to the community around us.

Thursday, July 30, 2020

John Lewis Funeral Brings Georgia's Grand Lodges Together

by Christopher Hodapp

(UPDATE 8:38PM 7/30/20: An earlier version of this story erroneously said Oscar Alleyne, the Senior Grand Warden of New York was in attendance. He was not. I regret the error.)

There is a post-script to Wednesday's Masonic funeral service for U.S. Congressman John Lewis in Atlanta. Before the service began, the brethren filed in, and Prince Hall Grand Master Corey D. Shackleford introduced the honored Masonic visitors. In addition to the large number of Masons from the MW Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Georgia, there was the Grand Master of the MWPHGL of Tennessee L. Lamont Banks. 

And representing the Grand Lodge of Georgia F&AM were Most Worshipful Grand Master Johnie M. Garmon, Senior Grand Warden Donald C. Combs, and Grand Tyler William T. White. 

In the Scottish Rite, the motto and message of the 14th degree is "Virtus Junxit Mors Non Separabit - Whom Virtue Unites, Death Cannot Separate." My Latin is truly miserable, so I'll leave it to others to adequately recaption this story as "Death Unites Masons Who Have Otherwise Remained Separated." 

Let us all hope that this brief moment of unity and brotherhood is only the first opportunity for Georgia's brethren to explore greater cooperation and eventual recognition, and not just a momentary, fleeting contact never to be repeated. If recognition came from the the seeds planted at this particular funeral, there would be a certain symmetrical, symbolic properness to it.

Photo: Atlanta Journal Constitution
If you have a Facebook account, you can see the video of the Masonic service HERE.

(My apologies for not knowing who the original source was for these photographs - I assembled them from various Facebook posts today. Let me know and I will properly credit them. And yes, everyone properly wore their masks for the service, only removing them for the photos.)

UPDATE 7/31/20: 

The Atlanta Journal Constitution website features a short interview with Grand Master Shackleford HERE.

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Masonic Service for Congressman John R. Lewis Wednesday 7/29

by Christopher Hodapp

NOTE: This story has been updated as of 12:01AM 7/28 to reflect corrected information about John Lewis' Masonic record. Thanks to Derinique Kendrick in Georgia for the correction and Doug Evans III for providing more details.

Illus. Brother John Robert Lewis 33° passed to the Celestial Lodge on July 10, following a battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 80 years old. The Hon. John Lewis served as the U.S. Representative for the 5th District of Atlanta more than three decades, from 1987 until his death, and he was one of the last living 'leading lights' of the 1960s civil rights movement.

John Lewis was the last surviving speaker from the famous civil rights 'March on Washington' in 1963 (the occasion of Dr. Martin Luther King's celebrated "I Have a Dream" speech) — at the age of 23, Lewis was the youngest person to give a speech that day.

John Lewis was made a Prince Hall Mason 'at sight' in 1999 at H. R. Butler Lodge 23 in Atlanta, Georgia, by then-Grand Master Benjamin Barksdale of the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge F&AM of Georgia

In addition to his lodge, Brother Lewis was a Scottish Rite Mason in Atlanta Consistory No. 24-A, Orient of Georgia (PHA). He was coroneted a 33°SGIG in 2011 at the United Supreme Council Session in Atlanta. And he was a Shriner in the Prince Hall-associated Khedive Temple No. 16, and later in Mecca Temple No. 10, in the Ancient Egyptian Arabic Order Nobles of the Mystic Shrine.

John Bazemore/AP
On Sunday, a horse-drawn carriage carried his flag-draped casket on a final trip across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama. Congressman Lewis' body will lay in state in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda Monday and Tuesday so that lawmakers and many others can pay their final respects in Washington, D.C. He will then be taken to the Georgia State Capitol in Atlanta.

John Lewis' body laying in state in the US Capitol Rotunda
(Photo: Jonathan Ernst/Pool/Getty Images)
MW Corey Shackleford, Sr., Grand Master of the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge F&AM of Georgia (PHA), has announced that the last rites for the late Congressman and Mason will take place Wednesday, July 29 at 8:00 p.m., at the Georgia State Capitol in the Rotunda area. Masonic services will be performed by the officers and members of H.R. Butler Lodge No. 23 (PHA) under current COVID guidelines and restrictions.

The Atlanta Journal Constitution website is covering the almost week-long series of tributes as well as funeral and memorial services. The Masonic service might be broadcast or live streamed. Check that website on an ongoing basis for more information.

In May of 2008, then-Grand Master Akram Elias of the Grand Lodge of the District of Columbia honored John Lewis for his lifelong commitment to civil rights. This ceremony took place as part of the 9th World Conference of Masonic Grand Lodges at the Renaissance Washington D.C. Hotel.

It is no small irony that Lewis' own grand lodge, the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Georgia, was not then, and is not today, recognized as regular by the 51 U.S. 'mainstream' state grand lodges, including the Grand Lodge of Georgia. Masonic protocol dictated then as now that he could not have accepted GM Elias' presentation in open lodge as a Brother Mason. 

Nothing has changed in a dozen years. And there's no way to defend that situation any longer.

His column is broken, and his brethren mourn.

Requiescat in pace.

NOTE: An earlier version of this story incorrectly named St. James Lodge No. 4 as Lewis' mother lodge, as well as membership in Nabbar Temple No. 128. I regret the errors.


Friday, July 24, 2020

Saipan Masons Donate Tower Clock to Catholic Cathedral

by Christopher Hodapp

Freemasons help their communities all over the world, and in countless ways. In the village of Chalan Kanoa on the Pacific island of Saipan, local Masons have just completed the installation of a new tower clock at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Cathedral. The cathedral is the mother church and seat of the bishop of the Diocese of Chalan Kanoa. 

According to the Marianas Variety newspaper website today, the Brethren from Emon Lodge No. 179 donated the clock and their labor to install it at the Catholic cathedral. The tower's original clock was destroyed by Super Typhoon Yutu in October of 2018:

The members of the Emon Masonic Lodge No. 179 under the leadership of Worshipful Master Joel I. Subang on Wednesday turned over the new tower clock they installed at Mount Carmel Cathedral.
“I feel very much pleased to thank the brethren who worked together to make this project a reality,” Subang said, adding that the project was initiated by Very Worshipful Master Bong Malasarte... Through brotherly love, charity and faith in God, everything becomes possible,” Subang said, as he urged the Freemasons on Saipan to continue working together in serving the community."
Bishop Ryan Jimenez of the Diocese of Chalan Kanoa expressed his appreciation to the Emon Masonic Lodge No. 179 for its contributions to the church.
“I am truly and sincerely grateful to all of you for your kindness and generosity. You’ve been very helpful to the community,” Bishop Jimenez said as he acknowledged Saipan Mayor David M.  Apatang and Honorary Philippine Consul to the CNMI Glicerio “Eli” Arago for their assistance and support.
“The church is just a structure; it’s just a building, but more than that building is really our faith that can withstand any storm,” Bishop Jimenez said. 
Worshipful Master Joel I. Subang
Mayor Apatang said the Emon Lodge No. 179 has been very supportive and active in the community.
“We truly appreciate it,” he said, as he thanked the Freemasons for their partnership with the local community.
A quick look across the Internet reveals that the Masons of Emon Lodge have been very active about taking on community service projects in their area. They have helped clean up after typhoons and hurricanes, they have built bus stops, assisted neighbors during storms, and much more.

While Saipan and the other Marianna Islands are U.S. Territories, Emon Lodge is chartered by the Grand Lodge F&AM of the Philippines. 

Friday, July 17, 2020

Nebraska's Prince Hall Grand Lodge Building Vandalized

by Christopher Hodapp

The Omaha headquarters of the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Nebraska was vandalized and robbed last Monday night. According to a report on KETV-7, a brick was thrown through the glass front door of the 100-year old Masonic hall, and thieves then entered the building.

In addition to the shattered door, MW Grand Master Freddie L. Clopton, Jr. reports that swords and robes were stolen from the lodge room, which usually points to bored teenagers in these cases. (The TV station misspelled his name on the chyron.) But Grand Master Clopton had a remarkably sanguine response to the TV reporter on Thursday when asked about the damage. "Hopefully the person who did that - if there's anything we can do to help, that's what we're about."

The reporter was a bit hyperbolic describing the items as 'sacred.' They are merely used in putting on the ceremonial degrees of Freemasonry, but are by no means considered to be 'sacred.' Masonry is not a religion, nor are Masonic ceremonies religious in nature. The Prince Hall brethren would simply like their items returned. 

The north Omaha Prince Hall building is also home to a chapter of the Order of the Eastern Star, the Joshua David Kelley Consistory No. 27 of the United Supreme Council of Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite NMJ (PHA), and Zaha Temple No. 52 AEANOMS.

The MWPHGL of Nebraska has been raising money to help repair and renovate their historic hall, so this damage and burglary comes at a lousy time for them. If you are so inclined, they have a GoFundMe fundraising campaign going on at this time. CLICK HERE to donate.

Back on June 12th, GM Clopton and Grand Master Ronald D. Stites of the Grand Lodge F&AM of Nebraska issued a joint message about recent violence and demonstrations across the country. "We do not approve of the hatred of racial discrimination or the destructive actions we have seen," they wrote. "But we do approve of emulating the brotherhood Masonry is built upon. We stand together as a sacred Brotherhood."

Saturday, July 11, 2020

Local Preservation Org Helps Restore North Carolina's First Prince Hall Masonic Hall

by Christopher Hodapp

The historic home of North Carolina's first African-American Masonic lodge, King Solomon Lodge No. 1 (PHA) in New Bern, is being restored to its Civil War-era appearance, thanks to local community leaders, donations and grants.

The lodge's 1870 Masonic hall, originally known as Drayton Hall, has been in distressed condition for several years. A fire in 2005 caused major damage to the structure, and since then the elements have not been kind to it. Now the New Bern Preservation Foundation is helping to raise money for the project and aiding in its restoration, and nearly $90,000 has been raised so far. The building has been continuously used as a Masonic lodge and meeting hall since it was built, and it is one of the very few structures north of Queen Street in New Bern to survive a massive, devastating fire in 1922. After the fire, the hall was actually moved several blocks to its current location.

Phase One of the project concentrates on stabilizing the building, with a new roof, new siding, historically recreated windows, restoration of the rooftop cupola, and replacement of the period-incorrect cinder block foundation.

King Solomon Lodge 1 was one of the first African-American lodges south of the Mason-Dixon Line descended out of Prince Hall's African Lodge in Massachusetts. The lodge was issued a charter by the 'National Compact' (PHO) Grand Lodge of New York in 1865 as King Solomon Lodge 23, and their Hall was named after Paul Drayton, Grand Master of the National Compact from 1862-65. In 1870, four lodges of black Masons chartered in North Carolina withdrew from the Compact and established the present Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of North Carolina (PHA). King Solomon Lodge was renumbered as No. 1 under the new grand lodge, and all four of their founding lodges are still active today.

With about 10,000 members today, North Carolina is believed to have the second largest membership of Prince Hall Masons anywhere (after Georgia). Over the years they have chartered more than 850 lodges, in the U.S. and in foreign countries, and almost 300 are still active today.

This project is a perfect example of a lodge and the community uniting to preserve and protect the heritage of Freemasonry and its legacy. 

Our historic temples and halls must not be looked upon as white elephants and money sumps to be abandoned by our members.  Look into the history of the founding of your town and you'll likely find the Masons have been there from the start. Historic preservation organizations recognize the importance of our fraternity to the development of towns and cities everywhere. 

“This is a vitally important historic structure not only to New Bern but to the entire state," said Tim Thompson, current President of the New Bern Preservation Foundation."Its architecture is important along with its historic and cultural significance... This is one of the few buildings in New Bern that we know was built by African American craftsmen and used by the African American community leaders who became state legislators and U. S. Congressmen.”

Past members of King Solomon Lodge have included James O’Hara, legislator and Congressman; Henry P. Cheatham, Congressman; and George H. White, legislator and Congressman.

Consider that Masonic lodges and our halls have been the center of civic and cultural life in thousands of communities across the country for more than two centuries. They can and should be again today. When the Master of King Solomon Lodge was interviewed about the project, he said, "The vision of making good men and women better as well as cultivating young minds for the future is of the utmost importance.”

Amen, my Brother. Amen. Now more than ever.

For more about the restoration project or to donate, CLICK HERE.

The New Bern Preservation Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit, formed in 1972 to preserve the historic architecture of New Bern, North Carolina. Questions about the project can be directed by calling the NBPF office at 252-633-6448 or by emailing NBPFinfo@gmail.com.

Friday, July 10, 2020

The Celestial Lodge: Alaska PGM John 'Bo' Cline Passes

by Christopher Hodapp


My longtime friend and Masonic Brother John 'Bo' Cline, passed away from acute leukemia on Wednesday. My deepest condolences to his dear wife Beth, to Josh, Megan, and all of their family.

It has been my privilege to know both Bo and Beth since I was invited to speak at Alaska's annual communication on Kodiak Island back in 2009, when he was elected as Grand Master. Bo's honors and accomplishments are far too numerous to recount here. In addition to serving as Alaska's Grand Master, he has served as a board member of the George Washington Masonic National Memorial, a member of the Board of Directors of the Masonic Restoration Foundation, and he was the third President of the Masonic Society between 2012-14. 

I just read that Bo was due to receive his honors as a 25-year member of our fraternity this month from his mother lodge, Alaska's Matanuska Lodge No. 7. 

Bo passed away on the 25th anniversary of the date of his being raised as a Master Mason.

Bo was such an incredibly multi-talented, multi-faceted man. On his Facebook page this week, Beth's brother, Jim Dodds, wrote this about Bo:
As with anyone it's hard to sum up in so many words a man's life.
With Bo it's exceedingly difficult because Bo lived an exceptional life.
He was an avid outdoorsman, brilliant engineer/scientist/mathematician, world traveler, and incredibly talented craftsman. Woodworking and brewing were his crafting passions.
To me though he was a mentor, friend, and even though he was married to my sister he seemed like a true blood brother.
He was 15 years older than me but I didn't feel that age difference.
He taught me about fishing and camping and working on the farm.
Indeed. Bo Cline was all that, and more. He was a mentor to all who knew him, and a natural leader who inspired everyone whose lives he touched. 

The COVID virus shutdowns have made all of our usual customs surrounding death and grief even more more heartbreaking than they would normally be under the best of  circumstances. Beth has requested that his Masonic Service be held later on when it is safer to gather together.

In Shakespeare's Hamlet, the prince is describing to his friend Horatio a vision of his father's ghost, 'in my mind's eye.' 
"He was a man, take him for all in all, I shall not look upon his like again."
I feel much the same way about Bo's passing. Men and Masons like Bo Cline pass this way but once. Would that there were thousands more like him.

His column is broken, and his Brethren mourn.

Requiescat in pace.

NOTE: The Masonic Restoration Foundation has announced that they will hold on online remembrance for Bo Cline on Sunday, July 12th at 8:00 PM Eastern Time (4:00 PM Alaska time), and it is open to anyone via Zoom. 

Click HERE to register. 

After registering, you will receive an email with information about joining the meeting.